Monday, July 19, 2010

Things that go bump in the night...

You know how those worse cas scenario questions play out? You get a nearly impossible situation and are supposed to figure out what you would do. What would you do if you were descending a mountain road on a road bike at say 40 mph and suddenly someone threw a bike in front of you?

That question was presented to me on Jun 24. I was on a weekly group ride with the folks of Johnson City Cycling and we always go over Buffalo Mountain in Johnson City. This particular night it was sprinkling slightly and there was some lightning off in the distance causing a few to turn back. That is the last thing I remember. The next 36 hours of my life may or may not ever come back to me but eyewitnesses and painful scars (oh and some scary MRI scans) have helped me put together what happened.

As we rode on that evening, the rain never really materialized after a few sprinkles. By all accounts it was a pretty typical ride and we reached the base of Buffalo and everyone climbed their own pace and we regrouped at the top. The roads were damp in places but by no means all that wet (or so I was told). We rode off the mountain. Here's where things for me get a little weird. I have been riding and racing bikes for 22 years and some rules I never break....ever. One of those is on wet descents I always mind my own business and I don't follow wheels, especially in corners. Not having the luxury of knowing what happened exactly I am still really troubled by the crash. I just don't  understand how I got where I was just before another rider lost it in a left hand corner and his bike slid right in front of me. I tried in vain to bunnyhop the bike but I failed. I had zero time to react and hit the road at 40mph head first. Road rash on my head, hands, knees and shoulder says I never even had time to take my hands off the bars. The other rider, as far as I know, had road rash and that was all. I layed in the road unconscious as friends watched over me and called 911.

Day 1 - ICU......

Day 3

At the hospital, road rash was treated and stitches were applied to my left eye and chin. A MRI would show several facial and jaw fractures and a subdural hemotoma. I was admitted to ICU and that is where I stayed until Sunday. Sometime on Saturday, I became somewhat aware of what was happening to me. Still very foggy and very much in pain, I learned of the crash, the damage to my face, the bleeding on my brain (which had THANKFULLY stopped) and the amazingly wonderful job my Bell Volt helmet did in saving my life. The rest of Saturday and Sunday were spent with me becoming less "foggy" and starting to improve. By Sunday evening I was moved out of ICU and by Monday I was released from the hospital. I had a prescription for some wonderful pain meds and some good old R&R. After couple of days of that I was climbing the walls. I don't do idle time very well.

I figured out by using some math equations that I hadn't used since college that at the point of impact there was over 10,000lbs of force on my head and neck. I got scared... really scared. I have crashed a lot over the years and have had a lot of broken bones and assorted injuries. Never broke my head before though.
I felt very blessed to still be around to bitch and complain about how much pain I was in and how my fitness was abandoning ship like rats from the Titanic. Over the next week I healed a lot and was able to return to work the day after Independance Day. By the following Sunday, I was ready (physically, amazingly) to ride my bike again.
Mentally however, was a slightly different story. I was scared. I still had skull fractures that were healing but made my melon weak. Crashing was not an option. If I hit my face (before this crash, the last hard crash I had on the road was over 10 years ago so the odds were decent.... still I was scared ****less) I would be screwed to impressive levels of screwedness. A mile into the ride I wanted to turn back. I was nervous, my legs felt like crap and my balance was screwed up... I was scared... I went on and was flanked by some good friends that made sure I kept myself out of too much trouble. We rode for a couple of hours and although I felt better at the end, the fear and uneasyness never left me completely. I made it though. I dealt with the fear pretty much how I always have, I punched it in the face.

I have ridden a few times now since the accident and every ride feels a little better and my fitness is (sloooowly) returning. I rode the exact climb and descent that almost killed me and although it was scary and I roasted my brake pads all the way down, I did it. My prognosis is good. The fractures in my skull and jaw will all heal without the need for surgery. My brain has a small amount of blood between the halves that should go away on its own. The damage emotionally will also heal with time too. I have scars on top of scars on top of scars....Nothing new there, skin heals too.... My fitness will return and hopefully I can improve (I lost 11 pounds but unfortunately most of it was muscle...) on it. Time will tell.

I want to thank everyone that helped me that night, that prayed for me, sent me encouragement and helped me and continues to help and encourage me to this day and forward. I have a great circle of friends and I appreciate each and every one of you...

Day 5.. Going home......

Lastly, I can't encourage all of you enough (and hopefully this is preaching to the choir), please wear a helmet. Make sure everyone you ride with wears a helmet, a properly adjusted helmet and for God's sake make sure your kids wear helmets when riding bikes, skateboards or anything else that can cause serious damage. Helmets save lives..